Friday, April 18th, 2014

Groveport’s “Tin Man” water tower thwarts real estate deal

By Rick Palsgrove

Southeast Editor

The presence of Groveport’s 77-year-old, 100,000 gallon water tower disrupted the potential sale of a home on Front Street.

“For the first time in more than two decades of selling real estate and having my office in Groveport, I cannot close a real estate transaction because of the old water tower (located north of Blacklick Street),” realtor Marylee Bendig told Groveport City Council at its Aug. 12 meeting.

Jacqueline Papai, who owns the Front Street home near the water tower, had received an offer from someone to buy her house contingent upon an FHA appraisal.

Bendig said buyers were approved for FHA financing pending the appraisal.

“The appraisal came in fine, value was good, but the appraiser noted the water tower was in the ‘fall line’ of my client’s house and that further assessment would be needed to see if the house is within the engineered collapse zone,” said Bendig.

Bendig said the lender would not insure unless the appraiser removed the notation about the water tower from his appraisal.

In a letter to the appraisers dated July 25, Groveport City Administrator Marsha Hall stated the city has approved water-related improvements (including the construction of a new water plant expected in 2014) which affect the continued use of the water tower. She noted that, once the new water plant opens, the water tower near Blacklick Street would be demolished. Until then the water tower must still be used to meet Ohio EPA requirements.

Bendig said, because the city’s letter did not address the structural integrity of the tower, the appraiser would not remove his notation about the water tower from his report, which prevented the potential buyer from obtaining FHA financing.

“She (Papai) can’t sell her home now. This will also affect other homeowners in the immediate area of the water tower.” Bendig alleged

Papai, who had planned to sell the house and then retire out of state, told council she was “stunned by the whole mess.”

“My dream is washed away,” said Papai. “No one will buy my house. Why didn’t the city step up when I needed you? My heart is broke. Now I have to look out at that rust bucket of a water tower.”

The situation left many in the council chambers wondering why no other insurers or lenders have ever questioned the water tower’s presence.

Council members and city officials, as well as Bendig, said this is the first time an issue like this with the water tower has ever come up to their knowledge.

“The water tower has been there since the 1930s,” said Councilman Ed Dildine. “Why is it an issue now? What changed?”

Groveport City Assistant Administrator Jeff Green said the water tower is full of water and is still used. He said the city “has been given no indication that the water tower is unsafe.”

“Our first duty is to provide adequate water pressure to ensure fire protection,” said Green.

Green said the city plans to obtain a pressure reduction valve for its Columbus water connection to maintain two water sources before the water tower can be taken down.

Groveport Law Director Kevin Shannon said an inspection by Caldwell Tanks, Inc., in May 2012 does not mention any issues with the structural integrity of the water tower. He said this inspection did not address the tower’s “fall zone.”

The inspection does include a list of items needing repair on the water tower. Shannon said the city is planning to have yearly maintenance done on both of the city’s water towers.

Shannon said the Caldwell Tanks, Inc. inspection is available for public viewing.

Hall said she would discuss the situation further at council’s committee of the whole meeting on Aug. 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the municipal building, 655 Blacklick St.

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